How Trump Is to Blame for the Depression

How Trump Is to Blame for the Depression May 15, 2020

This is drawn from the Washington Post in a short but good article, inspired by a comment from sycophantic Fox contributor Maria Bartiromo:

BARTIROMO: We’ve got 33 million people filing for unemployment, we’ve got 20 percent—

TRUMP: Nobody blames me for that.

Except, it turns out, they do. The article sets out that Trump made decisions that were hugely causally responsible for the present and coming depression.

Trump claims he saved everyone from a fate far worse by closing the borders expediently to China and Chinese travel. Except he didn’t really, as many hundreds of thousands of people still travelled between the two countries.

Among the things that story leaves out is the original sin of Trump’s failure: The fact that we lost two months when we could have been preparing for the pandemic that would inevitably arrive in the United States. Though Trump was repeatedly warned by people inside and outside his administration beginning in early January that a pandemic was on its way, he continued to dismiss the threat, praise the Chinese government for its response and insist that there was nothing to worry about.

Though the economic effects were not yet being felt on a wide scale, it was this failure to act that made the national lockdown almost inevitable. Then Trump exacerbated the problem with his chaotic and bumbling efforts to create a coordinated national response. Incredibly, it’s now mid-May and we still don’t have a national testing and tracing strategy to contain the pandemic.

What’s more, when we wound up with little choice but to shut down much of the economy — because of the administration’s incompetence — Trump resisted every effort to use government’s power to mitigate the impact. We’ve gone through round after round of stimulus negotiations in which Democrats plead for more spending on testing, more help for the unemployed, more help for families, more help for small businesses, more assistance to states to keep their budgets from imploding — and Trump and congressional Republicans resist.

The result has been a series of measures that have been inadequate to the challenge, which is why we keep having to come back to do more.

And this is the thesis, that by rushing things and cutting corners, you make things more complicated and drawn out in the long run.

We know this because in other countries like South Korea, that had their first official case on the same day as America, they are whole phases ahead and with far less chaotic problems. (And, speaking of chaos, Obama’s silence was broken in accusing Trump’s response of being “an absolute chaotic disaster”.) Korea has 260 deaths compared to the 87,000 odd in the US, and accounting for population size differences, this is still a phenomenal disparity. They piled time, effort and resources into testing tracing and isolation, where Trump has oftentimes denigrated testing whilst trying to claim the US, was always better than everyone else, including South Korea, when it came to testing. But the US has been slow to react, and Trump knows this, so now it is all about blaming China.

South Korea has April unemployment figures of only 3.8%.

Germany has recorded as third as many death per capita as the US and so one might look to how they have enacted whatever policies they have chosen in order to better fight both the pandemic itself and the fallout.

But because Germany had a system in place in which the government covers payrolls in an emergency, its unemployment rate is only 5.8 percent, while ours heads past 20 percent.

Of course, my own country, the UK, is equally as culpable for its catastrophic timeframe and policies in reacting to the pandemic, and now we are trying to work out how to pick up the pieces. Well over a month ago the Standard Chartered boss accused both countries of being woefully slow off the mark:

Speaking to Bloomberg, Mr Winters became one of the highest-profile CEOs to criticise the Western response to the pandemic, saying the US and UK had acted “too late.”

“I find it interesting to listen to the debate now that we in the West, or in the UK, or in the US, couldn’t have done what the Chinese did because we don’t have that kind of society,” Mr Winters said. “Well, we are doing what the Chinese did; we’re just doing it too late.”

Trump has been slow to do anything decent, including in mandating masks.

Now, Trump is fuming that his own White House staffers are getting the virus, that his own testing regime is failing, and is making moves so that the US can muscle their way to the front of the queue for an internationally developed vaccine. I guess, if you screw things up at home, you can just try to throw your weight around abroad.

We already know that Trump never accepts responsibility for anything that he has done, unless it is something he hasn’t done that brings about positive outcomes. He likes to claim responsibility for those things…

Both the US and the UK have a lot to answer for in the ways they have reacted to the virus. The main thing to see is whether this will eventually make any difference in the time scale of a year to a year-and-a-half. Will mitigation failures or policy failures, over long time scales, be ironed out only to be differentiated by healthcare system overloads and economic outcomes? Will the blame games carry on, as this one here, until a point where most everyone has either died or become immune to the virus even before a viable vaccine is developed? Will the successes of countries like New Zealand become fertile ground for bigger second and third waves? Only time will tell.

But if things do end up equalising, it won’t be due to the careful, astute planning of people like Trump, prancing around like a peacock, trying to make it all about him and his ratings. It will be a near inevitability from which we will still be able to better craft future policies by learning what not to do.

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